Friday, March 22, 2019

"Sledgehammer" by Peter Gabriel

#1 Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  2715
Date:  05/10/1986
Debut:  89
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Rock, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  Gabriel's fourth album, known as Security in the US, generated his best single to-date with the #24 Pop/#1 Rock track "Shock the Monkey." It helped the former Genesis front man expand his audience and set him up well for his fifth album, So. Leading things off was this funky first single. The horn-driven tune struck audiences as did its groundbreaking MTV video. Listeners and record buyers would push the single to the #1 spot on the Pop, Rock, and Dance charts. It would also make a minor showing on the R&B chart at #61. The song would help send the album to #2 and over time it would end up being a 5x platinum seller. The album would be nominated for a Grammy for Album of the Year while the song would get a trio of nominations (Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Rock Vocal Performance, Male).

ReduxReview:  I don't think anyone really expected this from Gabriel. Although he had a few pop-leaning tracks in his catalog, he wasn't necessarily a hit-making artist like his old Genesis cohort Phil Collins. However, for So he aimed for something more accessible and the most obvious example of that was this soul-influenced track. It hit radio like a...well...sledgehammer and crushed the competition to get to #1. It showed that Gabriel, if he wanted to, could put his experimental side on pause and write something with mass appeal. Yet he still fed his creative side with the amazing video for which he apparently laid under a sheet of glass for sixteen hours while individual photo frames were shot. Unlike some videos from the day, it still holds up well (the roller coaster segment is my favorite part). This would be Gabriel's only Pop #1. Oddly, this song replaced Gabriel's former band Genesis' "Invisible Touch" at the top of the chart where it spent one week. It would also be the band's only Pop #1.


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The song's associated video played a big part in the single's success. Done in a stop motion animated style, the video was endlessly fascinating and is still considered one of the best music videos ever made. The British animated film studio Aardman did much of the work on the video. Aardman would later produce the Wallace & Gromit film shorts with 2005's full-length feature Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit taking home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. They also had a major hit with 2000's Chicken Run, which is still the highest grossing stop action animated feature of all time (followed by Were-Rabbit). Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" was the studio's first foray into music videos.  2) The video was nominated for a record ten MTV Music Video awards. It would go one to win nine of them. The only one it didn't win was the Viewer Choice Award, which went to U2 for "With or Without You." Gabriel's nine wins set a record for most wins in one night. He also received a non-competitive Vanguard award making his total ten for the night. He still holds the record for most wins on a single night and most wins for a single video. For years Gabriel solely held the record for most nominations in one year (ten), but then in 2010, Lady Gaga tied that record when she got ten nominations. Her nods were split between two videos; "Bad Romance" and "Telephone." She would win eight awards that year with seven going to "Bad Romance" and one to "Telephone."


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